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Has the RSS changed tack on Jinnah?

By getting Jaswant Singh (LEFT) back, LK Advani has dealt a blow to his detractors in the Sangh parivar for criticising and replacing him as the BJP chief for his Jinnah remarks in 2005, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2010 00:20 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times

Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh has ended his estrangement with the saffron brigade but the reasons for his expulsion from the party don’t appear to have been addressed. The former foreign minister was unceremoniously booted out of the organisation in Shimla last year when the parliamentary board, in what seemed to be a pre-determined decision, acted against him for writing a book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It was said that this followed serious concerns expressed by the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over the fallout of the book on some polls that were to be held in his state at that time. The BJP subsequently won those elections.

While his divorce with his party took everyone by surprise, his reunion was on cards even before the recent Patna session of the National Executive after Jaswant Singh accompanied L.K. Advani in his plane to attend the funeral of former vice-president and top BJP leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Singh’s return has also paved the way for the return of Uma Bharti, one of the few second-generation mass leaders in the party.

Jaswant Singh has reiterated that he stood by the book, which had got him in trouble and has stated that he was very happy with his re-entry into the Sangh fold. He had earlier stated that the BJP should become a party of the present and not be a prisoner of the past.

There are several dimensions to this expulsion and return which must puzzle political analysts. Was Jaswant Singh thrown out of the party to ensure that after Advani ceased to be the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, he did not become a claimant for the position since he had a similar status in the Rajya Sabha? Now since the issue was settled and Advani had appointed Sushma Swaraj in the

Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha, Singh’s claim, if any, had become infructuous.

Second, by getting him back, Advani, who has become even more powerful than he was before the RSS got after him, has dealt a blow to his detractors in the Sangh parivar for criticising and replacing him as the BJP chief for his Jinnah remarks in Pakistan in May-June, 2005. Jaswant’s readmission into the party is despite his (Jaswant’s) views on Jinnah and also to drive home the point that Advani had committed no sin when he had praised the Qaid-e-Azam on Pakistani soil.

Third, if one goes by what Nitin Gadkari said while admitting Jaswant Singh into the party, it is possible that the party was under pressure from both within and outside to take him back. Gadkari said that he looked to his margdarshan (direction) in strategic and foreign affairs. The reference to foreign and strategic affairs is baffling since his views are not consistent with those of the RSS on Jinnah and Pakistan and not in line with Hindutva philosophy. Several Sangh activists are hoping that Singh’s proximity to the Americans beginning with his stint as foreign minister had nothing to do with his comeback.

The RSS and its nominee Gadkari have come out very poorly in the whole affair. It is evident now that the RSS sarsanghchalak has no control left over the parivar but what is equally surprising is why various constituents like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad are taking things lying down. Has their belief in Hindutva been shaken beyond repair and have they reconciled to giving respectability to Jinnah, the man whom they accused of dividing the country. Or is it that Advani has conquered his detractors and both Mohan Bhagwat and Nitin Gadkari are now at his mercy. It may be good news for its adversaries, but if this has happened, the future of the RSS’s ideology is dim. Between us.

First Published: Jun 28, 2010 00:17 IST